Tag Archives: Apple

The five tech giants are also media business giants that dominate the distribution of ebooks

2017-10-23

Five tech giants, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are marketing products that most of us use daily – some people perhaps use them most of the hours they are awake. Each of these tech giants is – one way or another – a media company. Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft sell digital media products from their online stores. Facebook and Google are categorized as publishers in a number of markets, because they distribute news and information to the public. All these companies have enormous powers to promote or block items and products.
Microsoft ebook store in the Edge web browser
Facebook reports it has more than two billion active users on its social media service. About 45 percent of American adults get news from Facebook. Although Facebook doesn’t admit it is a media company, that’s how it is treated, for instance, within EU.

Google’s search market share in the U.S. approaches 86 percent, whereas in Europe it is over 90 percent. Google’s primary business is advertising, but the Play Store features music, movies and ebooks as well.

About 43 percent of all online retail sales in the U.S. last year went through Amazon. The vast majority of ebook sales in the U.S. is conducted by Amazon.

Microsoft has a dominant position in PC software with its Windows software, and Apple has grown to the most valuable company in the world because of its computers and mobile devices that customers are ready to pay premium for.

Curiously enough, four companies out of five tech giants are also booksellers. Only Facebook hasn’t opened an ebook store.
Amazon Kindle Store
Amazon, of course, gets the credit for facilitating the ebook’s breakthrough into a mass market product with the Kindle and low ebook prices. The company is the undisputable leader of the ebook business in the world. Not only has Amazon a role as a book retailer, but the company is also a book publisher, translation firm and a marketer.

Apple was the pioneer of music downloads with the iTunes Store where people could find MP3 songs for their iPods and PCs. Ebooks were introduced to the iBooks store along with the iPad tablet.

Google started scanning printed books from libraries because the company wanted to archive and index all the information in the world. Many years and legal problems later, Google has agreements with publishers to sell their ebooks at the Play Store.

Microsoft has marketed applications and games in its digital download store, and has added ebooks to the store as well, although the market coverage is limited at the moment. The new Edge web browser can open EPUB books without any additional plugins or tricks.
Google Play Books store for ebooks

What do the tech giants’ media businesses mean for ebooks?

If we think about the global ebook business, the tech giants dominate the distribution of digital products to customers. Only Kobo has the global reach that is anywhere close to the giants, but Kobo probably does not have the customer base to generate the same amount of sales as the tech giants.

In every market, local online bookstores compete against the global giants. In many markets, local booksellers may have a larger market share than the giants. Tolino in Central Europe, for instance, is a strong brand and sales channel for ebooks in the German speaking part of the world.

For tech giants, ebooks are not necessarily the core products they will bet their futures on. Tech companies’ priorities are in software, cloud services, hardware, artificial intelligence, and in other new technologies. Amazon is the only company that (at the moment) is an online retailer first, and technology supports that goal.
Apple iBooks Store
Let’s take a look at other types of digital media products and which companies dominate those markets. Online movies and television shows are streamed and downloaded from Netflix and Hulu. Music is discovered and streamed to homes and mobile devices from Spotify and Pandora.

Only ebooks are purchased from tech giants. Isn’t it a bit strange?

Perhaps ebook subscription services, like Scribd, 24 Symbols, Storytel, Bookmate will change the landscape of distribution of ebooks one day. Perhaps Kobo is able to compete against the giants in the future. Perhaps a group of investors believes there is a place for an independent global bookstore and establishes one that is in line with the interests of the ebook trade.

This is what the Apple iPhone X camera means for travel photography

2017-09-15

Many travelers, writers and even professional photographers trust in their smartphone cameras for capturing important images that document their journeys and remarkable moments in life. The Apple iPhone X has so many features for photographers that it allows travelers to reconsider the contents of their photography kits.

Apple iPhone X camera feature: face recognition
The iPhone X comes with three cameras: two at the back and one at the front panel. Here is what the cameras are for:

– Wide-angle camera at the back: ƒ/1.8 six-element lens, optical image stabilization. 12 megapixel image sensor. Allows you to get really close to subjects, or shoot small spaces that don’t fit into the frame of a normal lens. This and the telephoto camera are, however, used in sync by the system.
– Telephoto camera at the back: ƒ/2.4 telephoto lens. Together the two cameras at the back enable optical zoom. Two lenses also create depth to images. The benefit of this optical zoom is, however, minimal compared to camera lenses where the elements have room to move.
– TrueDepth camera at the front: ƒ/2.2 aperture lens. 7 megapixel image sensor. This is used by the Face ID recognition feature, and naturally, for selfies.

Apple iPhone X two cameras at the back: wide-angle and  telephoto
Apple has also developed new software applications that utilize the possibilities of the cameras. Especially, the Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting software allows iPhone X photographers to capture and adjust portrait images into studio-like pictures.

It is obvious that Apple has put a lot of effort for ensuring that selfies taken on the iPhone look fabulous.

The iPhone X cameras are at their best when shooting subjects that are relatively near the lenses. Anyone who has tried to snap a photo of beautiful scenery in the distance on a smartphone knows how disappointing the result can be.

Of course, the iPhone X is an expensive compact camera. The prices start from $999. Nonetheless, you get a smartphone as well, and you may consider leaving lenses or a camera home that you have used for close-up and portrait photos.

Street photography is also a potential field where the iPhone X can shine. Smartphones are less intrusive in street photography. People simply don’t mind that much when someone takes a photo on a smartphone even though they clearly see that they are in the frame. If you take the same photo on an SLR, they do mind.

No matter how good the iPhone X cameras and photography applications are, it is a camera with fixed lenses. It can’t do everything that SLR cameras with removable lenses can do.

Landscapes, city views, architecture, action, sports, sceneries, natural phenomena are the most likely photographs that require other type of camera equipment for the best results.

I have often used smartphone cameras for video recording lately, and generally have been happy with the results. It is primarily for documenting something or capturing a brief moment of city life or anything potentially interesting happening nearby. Video capture is another field where the iPhone X can be an excellent product. It can:

– Capture 4K video up to 60 fps (frames per second).
– Record slow motion video in 1080p HD format up to 240 fps.
– Produce time‑lapse videos.

The video features are remarkable – many SLR cameras can’t do 4K, slow motion or time lapse. Have you ever tried to shoot and produce a time lapse video? If you have, you know how much work and how troublesome it is. If the iPhone X can make time lapse videos easy, it is a big time saver.

In bright sunlight, most displays in SLR cameras become unreadable. The iPhone X display is based on OLED technology which means much brighter, clearer, and higher contrast image than an ordinary LCD display can produce.

The iPhone X camera specifications and features

Apple iPhone X: Portrait Lighting app

Cameras at the back
12 megapixel wide-angle and telephoto cameras
Wide-angle lens: ƒ/1.8 aperture
Telephoto lens: ƒ/2.4 aperture
Optical zoom; digital zoom up to 10x
Portrait mode
Portrait Lighting (beta)
Dual optical image stabilization
Six‑element lens
Quad-LED True Tone flash with Slow Sync
Panorama (up to 63MP)
Hybrid IR filter
Autofocus with Focus Pixels
Body and face detection
Exposure control
Noise reduction
Auto HDR for photos
Auto image stabilization
Burst mode
Timer mode
Photo geotagging: GPS location marked in photos
Image formats captured: HEIF and JPEG

Video Recording
4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps
1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps
720p HD video recording at 30 fps
Optical image stabilization for video
Optical zoom; 6x digital zoom
Quad-LED True Tone flash
Slo‑mo video support for 1080p at 120 fps or 240 fps
Time‑lapse video with stabilization
Cinematic video stabilization (1080p and 720p)
Continuous autofocus video
Body and face detection
Noise reduction
8 megapixel still photos while recording 4K video
Playback zoom
Video geotagging
Video formats recorded: HEVC and H.264

TrueDepth Camera (at the front)
7 megapixel camera
Portrait mode
Portrait Lighting (beta)
Animoji
1080p HD video recording
Retina Flash
ƒ/2.2 aperture
Auto HDR
Body and face detection
Auto image stabilization
Burst mode
Exposure control
Timer mode

Review: Low-cost, high value 10-inch tablet from Acer

2015-12-08

Many ebook lovers like to read on a 7-inch tablet because the device is compact and light. That is true, but the compact size is not a perfect solution for many other applications. We have always liked the reading experience on a 9.7-inch Apple iPad. Additional reason for using the iPad is that it can be used as a productivity tool as well. Would it be possible to replace the iPad with a low-cost 10-inch tablet that could be used for reading books, following news, watching TV series, for email and for writing? We tested the Acer Iconia One 10 B3-A20 tablet.
acer b3-a20 tablet, watching youtube video
The Acer Iconia One 10 B3-A20 tablet has a 10.1 inch display. The screen resolution is 1280 x 800 pixels. The resolution is at the low end in the 10 inch tablet category, but the display is really readable and sharp. We didn’t detect any jaggedness or blurriness with books, videos, photos or news sites. Our benchmark tablet was a retina-display Apple iPad.
acer b3-a20 tablet, ebook reader
The form factor of the Acer B3-A20 tablet resembles a wide-screen tv, as opposed to the iPad’s ordinary 4:3 screen ratio. There are a couple of benefits in the Acer’s wide-screen solution:
1) In landscape mode, all web pages display properly. There is enough width on the screen for the whole page. Some ebook reading apps can display two pages at a time when in landscape mode.
2) In portrait mode, some applications like Twitter work better than in landscape. This is also true for some apps that originally were designed for smartphones, but run nicely on the tablet in portrait mode as well.

We have been using a Bluetooth keyboard with the iPad, and the same hardware keyboard worked with the Acer tablet right away. Bluetooth has to be switched on in Android settings and hardware keyboard with the correct language must be specified and that is it.

The Acer B3-A20 comes with 1GB of RAM memory which is enough, for instance, for running two web browsers, Twitter and a notepad application. The system resources monitoring application has a low threshold for warning of low memory. If you know what you are doing, you may ignore the warnings or you can install an app that helps you closely monitor and clean unnecessary apps. Android Assistant is one such application that lets you clean memory from applications that reserve RAM memory and also clean data and cache files from storage (flash memory).

GPS and memory card slot are normal features on Android tablets and smartphones, but not on all Apple devices. GPS lets you navigate using Google Maps or any other map application you may download from the Play Store. If you take the tablet along on the road, you can also use GPS for recording your travel route.

acer b3-a20 tablet, microsd memory card slot

Acer B3-A20 tablet, microSD memory card slot.


Memory card slot on a tablet is a truly valuable feature. It can be used as storage space for data and for installing applications that take a lot of space. Not all applications can be installed on a memory card, but large apps, like web browsers (e.g. Opera, Firefox) can run from a memory card. Another nice thing is that you can take a memory card from your camera or phone and insert the card into the tablet and view photos on a large screen.

Few people buy a tablet because of its camera. The five megapixel camera on the Acer B3-A20 captures ordinary images, but we don’t believe anyone will be using it as their primary camera.

The performance of the B3-A20 tablet was fine. Videos, photo galleries, large PDF documents, cloud services (like Dropbox), ebooks, maps, writing all work smoothly. We didn’t experience any hick-ups.

The tablet runs on the latest version of Android (5.1) which is important for application compatibility that you may download in the coming months and years. As such, Android 5.1 doesn’t provide new exciting features if it is compared to Android 4. A dedicated soft key for multitasking and greatly improved alerts at the top bar are the most visible and useful improvements.
acer b3-a20 tablet with Bluetooth keyboard

Conclusion

The Acer Iconia One 10 B3-A20 tablet fulfilled all our requirements for reading books, for news, for entertainment and for productivity, even for writing.

The tablet feels nice when you hold it (because of the surface on the backside), but it also feels like you want to hold it very carefully so that it doesn’t break. It is not a solid piece of engineering like high-priced tablets that may have metal cases. Another negative feature is the small amount of RAM memory. The built-in system health monitor app regularly warns of low memory.

Nonetheless, the tablet does what it is supposed to do, comes with a decent display, has a good battery life, and has valuable features that, for instance, the Apple iPad doesn’t have (memory card and GPS).

At the moment, when the Acer B3-A20 is priced at 150 dollars/euros, it provides very good value for the money.

Acer Iconia Tab 10 B3-A20 key features and technical specifications

– Screen size 10.1 inches
– Screen type active matrix TFT Color LCD, LED backlight, multi-touch
– Screen resolution 1280 x 800 pixels
– Android 5.1 operating system
– Back camera 5 megapixels, full HD (1080) video capture
– Front camera 2 megapixels, 720 video recording
– GPS
– Processor MediaTek Cortex A53 MT8163, 1.30 GHz, Quad-core
– RAM memory 1 GB
– Built-in flash memory 16 GB
– microSD memory card slot
– Wireless LAN Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
– USB-port, micro-USB 2.0 type B
– Bluetooth 4.0
– Microphone
– Stereo loudspeakers
– Headphone jack
– Battery Lithium Ion (Li-Ion), capacity 6100 mAh
– Maximum video watching 10 hours per charge
– Dimensions: thickness 0.4″ (9.5 mm) x height 6.6″ (168mm) x width 10.2″ (259mm)
– Weight 1.21 lb / 550 gr.

acer b3-a20 comparison with Apple ipad

Acer B3-A20 on the left, Apple iPad on the right.

Hands-on Test: Can the Apple Watch Help Travelers on the Road?

2015-05-15

The Apple Watch may look like any other modern, somewhat bulky electronic wristwatch, but it is much more than that. The smartwatch from Apple is a tiny computer that is connected to its owner’s iPhone via wireless Bluetooth connection. The exciting thing with the Apple Watch is that you can download apps on the watch in order to tailor its functionality to suit, for instance, for traveling.

apple watch, map

Stephanie Rosenbloom, a reporter for The New York Times, tested the Apple Watch in New York. She took the role of a tourist who doesn’t know her way in the city, and used the device in situations that an average tourist typically encounters in foreign places.

The Apple Watch can be controlled by tapping the screen and turning the knob on the side, by speech or by applications running on the iPhone.

apple watch , Siri ask directions

Positive experiences when traveling with the Apple Watch:

  • Notifications are displayed on the Watch when hands are full of bags and luggage, and there are not enough hands or time to pick up the phone from a pocket or bag). Notifications include emails and calendar alerts.
  • Hands-free dictation of text messages and answering phone calls.
  • Ask (without typing) for directions to a destination, and the watch displays a map with directions.
  • Most travel apps worked fine on the smartwatch.
  • Paying small purchases via Apple Pay. [editor’s note: the payment system has very limited availability, especially, outside the U.S.].
  • Easy set up: apps downloaded on the iPhone and from there on the Watch.
  •  
    Negative experiences:

  • Some travel apps failed miserably on the Apple Watch. [editor’s note: the new device is so different to any other Apple products that apps have to be completely redesigned and re-thought for the watch.]
  • Apple Maps or Siri speech recognition couldn’t find all requested places. [ed. note this is true for the Apple Maps iOS app as well.]
  • The GPS location given by the watch wasn’t always accurate enough for navigation on city streets. [ed. note: there can be many reasons for this – in city environment, high-rise buildings or anything that obstruct signals from GPS satellites can cause interference]
  •  
    Keeping in mind that this is the first version of the Apple Watch, the start is very promising. Once the teething problems have been solved and clever software developers have invented new apps for the smartwatch, we will have a useful new gadget in our wrists.

    Would You Read an Ebook on Your Smartwatch?

    2015-04-26

    Applications that let us read ebooks on ereaders, tablets, smartphones and laptop computers have been available for years. Especially young book lovers find it pretty natural to read on a five-inch smartphone screen, while older generations grab a tablet or an ereader when they want to read. Those readers who still don’t believe it is possible to read a book on a smartphone, will have to take a stand on a new product: smartwatch.

    The new possibilities of the Apple Watch has tickled the brain cells of software developers, also within enterprises that market ebook reading applications. One of them is Glose, a company that has developed a reading app for tablets, smartphones and PCs. Now, Glose has released their ebook reading app for the Apple Watch as well.

    glose apple watch ebook reading app

    The Apple Watch screen is only about 1.5 inches in size. It is clear that only a few words fit into the screen, making conventional reading troublesome. That is why Glose has a feature called speed reading in its Apple Watch app. The feature automatically scrolls the text one word at a time to the screen. The reader determines the scroll speed.

    Glose ebook reading app for the Apple Watch is available on the App Store.
    Via Ink, Bits and Pixels.

    glose ereader app

    Research: Tablets Have a Positive Impact on Studies

    2015-02-12

    A few years ago, the University of Illinois conducted an experiment that was doomed to fail. University students received Apple iPad tablets with instructions to use them for their studies. The students didn’t get any other instructions, tools, or support. Yet, the experiment was a success.
    Apple ipad tablet benefits studying
    The experiment was conducted in 2011, but reported in late 2014. Every student of the Master of Science program received an iPad from the school. Students were only told that they were supposed to use the tablets to study more effectively. No restrictions or locks were installed in tablets by the university. The university didn’t have any educational IT system integrated with tablets, but intranet was available just like for PCs.

    The survey participants were 22—43 old students of the same Master of Science program.

    Illinois University, tablet study

    The key conclusions in the report are as follows.
    1. Students increased their communication with the lecturers and fellow students. The use of email, searching information from the intranet and downloading study material increased as well.

    2. Tablets replaced pen and paper as the primary note taking method for majority of students. Assignments that required writing were still carried out on a laptop computer.

    3. The students regarded tablets complementary to PCs.

    When the experiment ended, 80% of the students said they have no problems with on-screen reading, and they rarely print material.

    Apple Has Patented a Peer-to-Peer Media Content Distribution Method

    2015-01-25

    Pirate sites that let visitors download ebooks, MP3 music, movies and TV shows typically apply a P2P (Peer-to-Peer) technology like BitTorrent for content downloads, because P2P balances the required resources among downloaders. Even though P2P has managed to establish a bad name (probably because of misunderstanding) for a universal technology, Apple has patented a P2P system for distributing commercial digital content products to customers.

    The principle of the patent “US 8,934,624 B2  Decoupling rights in a digital unit from download” is simple: the actual content and a license required to open the content are two separate entities that can be downloaded, copied, moved, and purchased independent from one  another.

    apple p2p patent

    For example, I purchase an ebook from the Apple iBooks store. I download both the content file and a license from the store. Then, I can share the content to anyone, for instance, via a P2P network. If someone wants to open the content file I shared, she can get a license from the store I originally purchased the ebook.

    The content is encrypted until a key obtained in the license decrypts the content. Apple ponders in the patent application that the system could lead to flexible pricing of content products. Because the online store doesn’t have to manage all content downloads, it could have different prices for license-only buyers (probably lower price) and for content-and-license buyers (probably higher price).

    Lower prices for digital products are always welcomed by customers, but other than that, Apple’s patent doesn’t mean dramatic changes to content buyers’ lives.  Today, digital products downloaded from the iTunes or iBooks store are packages that include both the content and the license. If you want to share it, you can transfer the file to someone else, but there is no (legal) way to open it. The only option for someone else to open the shared digital content is to visit the Apple store and download the whole package from there.

    TorrentFreak reported.

    U.S. Airport Restaurants Are Making Apple iPad Tablets Available for Travelers

    2015-01-21

    Many travelers are carrying tablets and smartphones along to flights they are taking. It means that they have their gadgets with them when they pass through an airport. Yet, a company (OTG) that designs and operates airport restaurants has installed thousands of iPad tablets in eating and waiting areas at airports. What’s the point?
    ipad airport restaurant by otg
    Obviously, airport restaurants want to attract more customers who come in, sit at a table that has an iPad isntalled, and order some food and drinks. That’s not all. Travelers can order their meals using an app on the iPad without having to wait for a waiter. Even more critical timesaving moment is when the plates are empty and it would be time to hurry to the gate. The payment process can be managed on the iPad as well.

    Meals can be paid using frequent flier miles. Flight schedules are also available on the iPads.

    Early 2015, OTG had installed iPads at gate areas and in restaurants at two airports in New York (Kennedy International and La Guardia), at Toronto Pearson International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport and Newark’s Terminal C. Who is the first in Asia or Europe to make iPads available at an airport?

    The New York Times tells about a frequent traveler who doesn’t even bother to pick up her own iPad from the bag when she enters the airport. She finds the tablets provided by the airport so convenient.

    Anything that helps kill time at airports is welcome for all travelers. Years ago, Changi Airport in Singapore had a game lounge, a TV lounge, and a couple of other places to spend time in. How about downloading a few ebooks on a tablet or smartphone and reading a good book while waiting?
    airport lounge waiting for flight